A survey by a UK-based divorce website shows that Facebook figures prominently in one-third of divorce petitions, an increase of 13 percent from two years ago.
Of course, Divorce-Online is in the business of dealing and profiting from the breakup of marriages, so take the results as you will, but the blog post describes how 5,000 petitions were reviewed recently, as in 2009, and 33 percent of them contained "Facebook."
The top three reasons Facebook was cited in these petitions:
- Inappropriate messages to members of the opposite sex.
- Separated spouses posting nasty comments about each other.
- Facebook friends reporting spouse’s behavior.
So, not only are people using Facebook to hook up with lost loves and make new ones, but they're also using their virtual walls to wage public relations wars with their soon-to-be ex-spouses.
“Social networking has become the primary tool for communication and is taking over from text and email in my opinion," said Mark Keenan, founder and CEO of Online Legal Services Limited, the parent company of Divorce-Online. "If someone wants to have an affair or flirt with the opposite sex then it's the easiest place to do it. Also the use of Facebook to make comments about ex-partners to friends has become extremely common with both sides using Facebook to vent their grievances against each other. People need to be careful what they write on their walls as the courts are seeing these posts being used in financial disputes and children cases as evidence.”
In the U.S., Facebook has even more clout in divorce proceedings. In 2010, the 1,600-member American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (which focuses on the end of matrimony, as it were) cited a survey that linked Facebook to one in five divorces, with 81 percent of those lawyers focusing on social media as the new affair hotbed. And the hottest of all was Facebook, with 66 percent of those AAML sources mentioning it specifically for evidence of marital discord and misconduct.
In September, a Connecticut judge ordered a divorcing couple to hand over each other's Facebook passwords to aid the discovering process in legal proceedings that included a custody battle.
Of course, on the other end of the spectrum are those who don't blame Facebook, as it is just the latest medium by which the unfaithful carry out their transgressions. People, they say, will always find a way to cheat. It's about establishing boundaries both spouses will respect. As an article on DadsDivorce.com puts it, "It’s not fair to blame Facebook or Internet dating sites because they are just the vehicle — not the driver."
Take our poll and let us know if and how Facebook figured in the dissolution of your marital happiness.
- Facebook: 6 degrees of separation? More like 4
- Divorcing couple ordered to disclose Facebook passwords
- Facebook: Marriage killer?
- Facebook is divorce lawyers' new best friend